The Caring Crab
Tuula Pere • Roksolana Panchyshyn
The Caring Crab
Story by Tuula Pere
Illustrations by Roksolana Panchyshyn
Layout by Peter Stone
English translation by Päivi Vuoriaro
Edited in English (US) by Susan Korman
ISBN 978-952-325-723-8 (ePub)
ISBN 978-952-325-223-3 (Print)
Copyright © 2016 Wickwick Ltd
Published 2016 by Wickwick Ltd
Printed in EU
Originally published in Finland by Wickwick Ltd in 2016
Finnish “Avulias taskurapu”, ISBN 978-952-325-072-7 (Print), ISBN 978-952-325-572-2 (ePub)
English (US) “The Caring Crab”, ISBN 978-952-325-223-3 (Print), ISBN 978-952-325-723-8 (ePub)
The Caring Crab text with illustrations by Tuula Pere has been published by Wickwick Ltd in 2010 and 2013
Finnish “Avulias taskurapu”, ISBN 978-952-5878-00-4 (Print), 978-952-5878-27-1 and 978-952-5878-28-8 (ePub)
English (UK) “The Caring Crab”, ISBN 978-952-5878-01-1 (Print), 978-952-5878-29-5 and 978-952-5878-30-1 (ePub)
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The Caring Crab
Tuula Pere • Roksolana Panchyshyn
Children’s Books from the Heart
Colin the Crab was the most skillful builder on the eastern riverbank. He
had used his skills to build a cozy home for himself. First, he’d built a
well-equipped kitchen and a small bedroom on top of the cellar. Then he’d
added a nice porch and a second story.
The builder was quite pleased with his home, but he was hardworking and
resourceful, so he was always planning improvements. Each day, as soon as
the morning sun began to rise over the bay, Colin put on his orange overalls
and tucked his tools in his big front pocket. Colin usually worked long hours,
toiling away long after the sun had set.
Sometimes on moonlit nights, Colin couldn’t sleep, so he
swam around his house with his tail wiggling excitedly, fixing
things or improving their appearance. He would straighten
the border stones, clean algae from the steps, and cut
down weeds along his property.
It was a mild August night. Colin sat on his roof and looked around.
The attic of Colin’s house reached the surface of the ground so he
could see the landscape by the river. It was beautiful, with its trees
and bushes, but it did not compare with the beauty of the river itself.
The crab knew every inch of the riverbed—all its bends, rocks, and
Occasionally peculiar surprises floated along the river. Colin had
snatched all kinds of unusual things out of the water. With his dexterous
claws, he’d turned an old shoe into a splendid warehouse. He’d
converted an empty can into a handy outdoor fireplace.
Night fell, and the water grew darker. The moon rose to the velvety
sky and lit Colin’s home bay. It was time for him to head inside.
Colin hummed happily while preparing his evening snack. With a steaming tea
mug in his claws, he climbed into his rocking chair and glanced out the window.
In the moonlight, he could see the garden pavilion he’d recently started to
build. He had dreamed of having a pavilion like this one for ages. At last he’d found
the time to gather all the materials and build the foundation. There was still a lot of
work to do, but he planned to devote all of next week to it.
Colin couldn’t wait until it was ready. He could have lots of happy gatherings with
his friends in the pavilion.
Colin knew nearly everyone who lived along the river. Friends often dropped by to
share news, or ask for his advice or help. Colin’s strong claws had dug the foundation
of the tortoises’ home. His claws had built a nest for the fish family to spawn
in. They’d rescued fish that were trapped in a fishing cage. And Ms. Catfish’s house
would surely not be still standing if it weren’t for Colin. He was constantly there,
helping with repairs.
The floorboards creaked as Colin rocked. He closed his eyes and imagined again
how much he would enjoy the new pavilion when it was done. It would be lovely to
sit there, watching the river eddy, and the little fish dash by.
On Monday morning, Colin woke up to the ringing of his can phone.
Old Ms. Catfish sounded cranky. She had slept poorly because a broken
gutter had banged all night, right outside her bedroom window.
“Colin, would you please come and fix my gutter as soon as possible?”
Ms. Catfish begged.
“Why, of course.” Colin sighed as he hung up. He didn’t have the heart
to say no to Ms. Catfish, even though he knew that he would have to
spend the entire day there. His garden pavilion would have to wait
The crab gathered some tools and put them on his clamshell cart. He
decided to bring his big toolbox, too, along with some boards, thread,
and wire. He knew from experience that Ms. Catfish’s house was full
of unexpected problems.
Ms. Catfish was impatiently waiting for Colin on her doorstep. She
had set the kitchen table neatly with coffee and some seaweed cakes.
It would take a moment or two before Colin could get to work. First, he
had to listen to stories about Ms. Catfish’s youth, and then they would flick
through a stack of photos of her nieces and nephews.
At dusk, the exhausted crab wiped his dirty claws on some seaweed and
slipped his level into his pocket. The gutter was now firmly attached to the
roof. The porch boards were hammered into place. And the dark glowworms
above the front door had been replaced with new ones that glowed
Colin said good-bye to Ms. Catfish, who stood waving outside her house
with a grateful expression.
Colin was still disappointed that he hadn’t been able to work on his pavilion
today, but beneath his breastplate, there was a warm heart. Colin
enjoyed working with others and the feeling of being useful.
At the crack of dawn on Tuesday, Colin put up the scaffold in front of his house.
Today he would really get his pavilion building going. The day couldn’t be better;
the river flowed calmly and the home bay basked in the sun.
Just as Colin had mounted the scaffold, Norma the Newt dropped by. She had a huge
family of little newts, and her hands were always full. They exchanged greetings and
marveled the beauty of the morning.
“Well, there’s no way around it. I’ve got more than enough work to do, rain or shine.”
Norma sighed with exhaustion. “Today I must get all ten windows of our house
cleaned. If only I had a scaffold like yours, Colin. Then I could reach all the way to
the upstairs windows.”
“I can come and help you,” Colin blurted out. “I have plenty of time to build my pavilion
tomorrow. I’ll just dismantle this scaffold and take it with me.”
Colin worked all day at the Newts’ house. When evening came, their windows were
spotless. Colin had also reattached the family’s water thermometer and straightened
a leaning gatepost.
After returning home, Colin was so tired, he headed straight to bed. Tomorrow he
would finally have time to work on his own pavilion.
Colin had all sorts of friends. They were big and small, old and young, chatty and
quiet. But Sally the Starfish was definitely vainer than any of his other friends.
Colin had a habit of collecting shiny bottle caps and pieces of glass from the river
bottom and taking them to Sally. She decorated her home with them. Shiny surfaces
also served as excellent mirrors for Sally, who liked to admire her own image and
make sure her arms were neat and clean.
Colin had just started putting up some support structures for his pavilion when
Sally the Starfish suddenly sailed in.
“Colin dear, you can’t imagine how depressed I am today,” Sally moaned. “It’s been
a dreadful week!”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Colin said as he wedged some corner posts between rocks.
Colin had a strong hunch that things were probably not as bad as they seemed. Still
Sally liked to tell Colin her problems.
Sally launched into her stories while Colin worked.
First of all, her clay treatment at the Mud Bay Spa had been a disaster. Instead of
becoming smooth and soft, her skin had turned greenish and rough! And as if that
weren’t enough, Sally was sick and tired of her home’s decor.
“My house looks terrible. And no one has paid me a visit for days.” Sally sighed,
crossing two of her arms and resting her head on them.
Colin couldn’t help feeling a little sorry for her. “I could come for a visit today, if you
like. I’ll bring the new bottle caps and glass I’ve collected for you. I’ll attach them to
your garden fence in no time.”
Sally’s face lit up. “That sounds fabulous! Let’s go right now!”
Sally started for home. With a quiet sigh, Colin climbed down from the scaffold and
Sally was delighted with the new things that Colin
had brought her. Pointing, she told Colin exactly
where to put everything. He dutifully crawled along the garden
fence, attaching the treasures in just the right spots. Soon the
decorations glittered in the sun.
At home later, Colin’s back ached from all the hard work. He sat
in his rocking chair, thinking. I’ve made so little progress on
my pavilion this week. I wonder if I can finish it by the weekend.
From between the curtains of his bedroom window, he could
see lightning flashing over the bay. A thunderstorm was coming.
This storm will probably do some damage, Colin thought before
he fell asleep. That meant he’d have plenty of repairs tomorrow.
On Thursday morning heavy raindrops dappled the surface
of the river. The water was flowing swiftly, high
from rainwater and runoff from the hills.
Despite his exhaustion, Colin began to work on his pavilion right after his
bowl of morning porridge. With difficulty, he managed to set the joists in
The building is finally looking like a real garden pavilion! Colin thought. He felt
his spirits rise.
But before long, there was such a commotion around the scaffold that he had to
stop working. A huge school of tiny fish was flitting back and forth.
“What on earth’s name,” Colin murmured. “Where did you all come from?
Can’t you see this is a construction site?”
“We are so sorry! We didn’t mean to disturb you,” the fish mother apologized.
“My little ones are distressed because the thunderstorm swept away our home
last night. They feel at home under your scaffold. It’s quite similar to the pile of
sticks where they usually sleep.”
“The flood took our home!” a little fish cried.
“Can we please stay here, in the shelter of this scaffold?” pleaded another little
one. “Please, Mr. Crab?”
Colin didn’t have the heart to say no. He saw how happy the little fish
were, swimming around in the maze formed by the scaffold and the
“Of course,” he said at last. “Welcome, everyone.”
The day turned out to be quite different from what Colin had planned.
The front yard swarmed with little fish. Since he couldn’t continue
working on his pavilion, Colin decided to clean the house.
Just as he had taken the rugs out to the porch, the fish needed his help
again. A pile of boards had toppled over while they were playing on the
slide. Now some of the little ones were trapped under the pile. Colin
carefully lifted up the boards and the poor little fish escaped.
At lunchtime, dozens of curious eyes appeared outside Colin’s kitchen
window. Now the small fish were hungry, and hoping to get a share
of his meal! Luckily, Colin had made plenty of insect soup.
The young fish were still boisterous by evening. Although Colin enjoyed
parties, this brouhaha was a bit too much for him. At last the fish mother
managed to get her little ones to settle down, and peace descended over
“Maybe I’d better build a new fish house next,” Colin decided. “If the
little fish stay here much longer, I’ll never finish my pavilion!”
On Fridays, Colin usually felt happy and satisfied. But this
Friday Colin felt tired and irritated.
It had been nice to help all his friends during the week. Now,
however, the fish swimming around the pavilion were getting
on Colin’s nerves. He yanked his curtains shut in frustration.
Most Fridays Colin took his clamshell cart and went to the
water vole’s shop to buy food for the weekend. He liked to fry
some treats, maybe even bake a cake, and invite his friends
over for a meal.
But today Colin barely had
the strength to open his
mailbox for today’s newspaper. He skimmed through the stories
and ads in the Daily River News, barely paying attention.
Then, from between the pages of the paper, a letter fell to the
Colin picked up the letter. A delighted smile spread across his
face as he read it.
“This is the best news I’ve received all week!” Colin declared.
He’d won a trip to the waterfalls upstream!
“I’ve always dreamed about taking a trip to the waterfalls!
I can hardly wait to tell my friends about my prize!” Colin
chuckled, cheered up.
Colin dialed Sally the Starfish’s number to tell her the news. The crab had barely
managed to say hello when Sally launched into a long story about an evening
dress she was designing for herself.
“I wonder if purple would suit me better than sky blue,” Sally said. “You’re probably
not the best judge of that, Colin. I think I’ll call the pearl mussel right away instead.”
“Maybe that’s for the best,” Colin mumbled. “I don’t have much experience in evening
“Thanks. Talk to you soon!” Sally hung up fast.
The line was dead before Colin had a chance to say anything else. Bewildered, he
remained standing for a while with the can phone still in his hand.
Colin decided he’d try Eddie the Eel next. Eddie often spent his holidays by the
waterfalls; he’d be happy to hear about Colin’s trip. Perhaps he could even give
Colin some good tips.
Brrring. Brrring. Colin waited for Eddie to pick up the phone. Finally, Eddie answered
the phone, but he sounded rushed.
“Hi, Colin. Sorry, but this isn’t a very good time to chat. I’m on my way to a neighbor’s
party. I’d like to get there before the others eat up all the treats. If you have
nothing urgent on your mind, let’s talk another time.”
“Sure, Eddie, that’s fine.”
Colin put down the phone. Suddenly he didn’t care about sharing his news about
the prize with anyone. Instead all he wanted to do was scuttle into bed.
Colin slept for the rest of the day and into the evening. He didn’t bother
to wash his claws or change into his pajamas.
His dreams were troubled. He dreamed he was trapped in the river’s flow
while his friends waved to him from the riverbank. . Suddenly Colin was
wheeling his cart full of tools. The cart got stuck in the sandy bottom of
the river, and all the tools fell off. Colin used his claws to pull with all his
might, but the cart just wouldn’t budge.
In the morning, the sun shined between the curtains right into Colin’s
eyes. Colin just rolled over. He heard someone bang on his door several
times, but he ignored that too. Then someone knocked on his window. But
the crab stubbornly stayed under his blanket.
group of baffled friends gathered on Colin front porch. The day before, the
school of fish had observed Colin’s irritable behavior. Clearly, something
was wrong with Colin.
The fish mother had talked to Ms. Catfish about the situation. Ms. Catfish had
called Eddie the Eel, who’d fetched Sally the Starfish. Other friends were on the
porch too. They were all confused and worried about Colin. Now the friends
were having an emergency meeting.
“I didn’t have time to talk to him yesterday,” mumbled Eddie.
“Me neither,” whispered Sally.
Others in the group nodded.
“My noisy babies were the last straw!” declared the fish mother. “And now
Colin can’t finish building his pavilion because of us!”
The friends had all reached the same conclusion: Colin had
helped each and every one of them, but none of them had
“We should band together to help Colin!” Eddie the Eel said.
“Indeed,” Ms. Catfish agreed. “I, for one, can offer a home to the
fish family. I live in a big house all by myself, and I’m a talented
“And I’m a good painter!” Sally put in. “I can help paint the pavilion.
I can use five brushes at once.”
An animated discussion followed. Colin’s friends made a plan for
how they could help their crab friend.
It turned out to be one busy Saturday. Friends bustled around
Colin’s house. There was plenty for everyone to do. Even the little
fish were helpful, carrying nails and screws.
Eddie the Eel was busy supervising the workers. He crisscrossed
the work site and shouted out instructions based on Colin’s plans,
which had been lying on the kitchen table. It was important for the
pavilion to be built exactly as Colin had imagined.
Sally the Starfish had a design in mind for the pavilion. In each
arm she held a paintbrush dipped in different color paint.
But Eddie shook his head. “Blue it shall be,” he said firmly. “That’s
what it says in Colin’s plan. It’s his favorite color, the color of the
river and the sky.”
The shellfish were a big help at the construction site. A group of six
crayfish—with their combined sixty legs—accomplished plenty in a
short period of time. Sam the Seashell had only one leg, but it would’ve
been hard to find a better floor polisher.
The site quieted down as the evening grew dark. At last the garden pavilion
was finished. The animals were tired but happy. The next day they
would reveal the surprise to Colin.
The workers headed home. Ms. Catfish took the rowdy young fish to her
house, and silence descended over Colin’s house. Only one light glimmered
inside—the one in the kitchen window. That was where Sally was
preparing a batch of insect soup for her friend.
The river inhabitants woke at sunrise to a beautiful Sunday morning.
Friends began streaming toward Colin’s house, carrying presents.
Soon the pavilion was filled with furniture, decorations, and trays overflowing
with food. Ms. Catfish brought her antique clam gramophone and
her favorite records.
The friends hung up a sign over the doorway to the new pavilion. Sally had
painted it on a pearl shell: Colin the Crab’s Pavilion.
The crayfish were sent to fetch Colin, who was still lying in bed in his dark
bedroom. The crayfish carefully moved his bed to the porch.
Everyone waited to see what would happen next.
The blanket began to heave. Colin twitched and turned restlessly, and
then finally, he lifted a corner of his blanket.
The crab blinked in astonishment. There were all his friends, smiling, and
a . . . brand-new garden pavilion!
Tears of joy fell from Colin’s tiny button eyes. The pavilion was exactly as
he had envisioned it!
What wonderful and caring friends I have, Colin thought joyfully. I’m such
a lucky crab.
The party at Colin’s pavilion lasted all day long. When night fell, his friends
lit the lanterns that the electric eel had hung all around. The crowd sat in
the pavilion far into the night. The wistful tunes from the clam gramophone
flowed into the bay and traveled up and down the eastern riverbank.
The night was very blue.
Colin the Crab, the most skillful builder on the eastern
riverbank, never hesitates to help his friends. Now Colin is
busy with his own new project—a garden pavilion for his home.
But after a week of hard work, the pavilion of his dreams is still
unfinished. Even worse, a boisterous fish family has taken over
the construction site.
The exhausted Colin buries himself under a blanket and refuses
to open his curtains. Puzzled, Colin’s friends call an emergency
meeting—it’s time for them to take action!